Nineteen photographs are on display around the baptismal font at the Chapel. There’s one photo for each member of the Valparaiso University faculty or staff who has died in this past year. The pictures are on display in anticipation of our keeping of All Saints Sunday, this November 6. But besides Valpo and their death dates, they hold Jesus in common. More personally, they hold the mark of the cross of Christ made over them at the time of their baptisms. To these 19, we will add many other names in our prayers of thanksgiving this Sunday. These will be the names of those known to us who have also died this past year and who also bear this same mark of the cross.
It’s good for us to remember these who have gone before us and who are, for the time being, lost to us. It’s good for us, because in the remembering we have the opportunity to recall the blessings that God provided us through them and to them, through the days of their lives – many or few. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on the lessons that their lives have for ours, these saints known to us who await the resurrection as we do.
But the remembering that we do isn’t much good to them. Frequently it seems, around funerals I hear others referring to the deceased as “living on in our memory” and while I believe I understand the positive intent of this statement, it usually makes me cringe. Perhaps it’s my own failing, but it seems to me that if the burden of keeping these ones alive among us falls to my memory, then there’s not much hope of it.
Rather, this remembering – this reattaching members to the body of Christ – lies not with me or you but with God. And God’s memory is tied up in that ultimate mnemonic, the indelible cross of Christ. The cross and those who bear it will not be forgotten by God, for Jesus — the one who bore the cross — is seated at the right hand of God. And all who are marked with the cross are with Jesus even now.
None of this has to do with your memory or mine, thanks be God.
+ Pr. Jim
Nov. 2, 2016
Rev. James A. Wetzstein serves as one of our university pastors at Valparaiso University’s Chapel of the Resurrection.